Stalin: A Biography Paperback – Unabridged, 2 Sep 2005
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..offers a more dynamic and complex figure than previous biographies.. Here in unprecedented detail, is an authoritative account -- Mail on Sunday
This is a meticulous and important book -- Sunday Times
a masterly biography..Authorative and compelling -- Daily Express
The highly acclaimed biography of the terrifying and fascinating Russian leader, Stalin, written by one of our greatest contemporary historians of Russia and author of the bestselling Trotsky, Lenin and Comrades. --This text refers to the Digital Download edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, many of Stalin's biographies are warped by the context they were written in. During the cold war the history of Stalin became a battleground in itself, with historians either portraying him either as a crazed bureacrat, a monster, or nigh on a God.
Service makes use of newly available evidence and weaves together a balanced, clear and comprehensive portrait of Stalin. More than any other biography of Stalin I've read it provides a rounded portrayal of this most controversial of figures. However, whilst being dispassionate helps Service cooly analyse his subject, this also leads to this biography being somewhat dry.
If you want to gain a thorough understanding of Stalin without worrying the autor has a hidden agenda, this biography is unsurpassed. However, if you want to get a feel for the warped version of reality that characterised life close to Stalin, and prefer something a bit more readable, Simon Sebag Montefiore's book 'Court of the Red Tsar' may be a better choice.
The book goes into great detail when it comes to his youth and his earlier involvement with the Lenin's ilk. Service does away with the myth that Stalin was the unremarkable dullard and bureaucrat who's ascension could not have been predicted.
Stalin was an intellectual, despite having very few original ideas of his own, and although not feared for suspicions of "Bonepartism" as Trotsky was, it would be wrong to suggest the Great Terror and other incidents of moments of brutal repression could not have been predicted in those early stages. Stalin was ruthless from the beginning. Stalin's leadership style is also put into a new perspective. Whereas Ian Kershaw characterises Hitler as a Weberian "charismatic authority" figure in contrast with Stalin's "bureaucratic authority"; Service's analysis of Stalin makes him appear far closer to Hitler as is often imagined. This characterisation is more in line with the sociologist Ivan Szelenyi.
It is the best Stalin biography I have read so far, even if it could have been a lot longer in places.
One writer says the book leaves him with the question as to whether Marxism as a creed has any merit, and wishes Service had addressed this, while acknowledging it was outside his scope.
This is a big question. Another reviewer complains that Stalin's split with Trotsky is not adequately covered. Equally Service's book on Lenin doesn't really say much about Stalin or Trotsky, and I get the feeling you have to read all three to get Service's full picture of the Russian Revolution. Perhaps the Trotsky book which I haven't yet read gives clues to his views on Marxism.
Another reviewer complains that this book can't be read without a prior knowledge of Russia. I'm sure he's right and would recommend Pipes' general history of Russia and perhaps Marx's 1844 manuscripts and Lenin's `State and Revolution'.
However what Service does do is provide a balanced political biography. At all times Service is trying to arrive at a fair picture of what Stalin did politically and how this sat with the situation he was in.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book for me was his relationship with Lenin. He clearly adored Lenin. Stalin had some exceptional personal qualities, including enormous self-discipline, great capacity for hard work, and quite a sophisticated and flexible intellect. He was able to appreciate the work of the revolutionary (in a non-political sense) thinker Bogdanov whose subtleties escaped Lenin.Read more ›
The inescapable conclusion is that Stalin was a suspicious and aggressive "Gang Boss", selecting his gang members, and deciding who would join and who would leave. He also informed them of who their enemies were.
Massive violence didn't worry him at all if it enhanced his power and removed his real, potential or imagined enemies, and he retained a direct oversight of the killings which proceeded on an epic scale with something like 15.000.000 mostly Russian and Ukrainians being killed from 1917 onwards by the Cheka/NKVD, in the Gulag death camps and in artificial death famines (see Google "Holodomor, Kaganovich").
Service shows that Stalin was a master of power relationships, for example playing Lenin's chosen successors off one against another while building his own Secretariat power base including future figures like Molotov and Kaganovich and gaining sufficient power to finally attack his erstwhile colleagues. The author makes the point that unlike Trotsky, Stalin wasn't an intellectually superior "distant" leader and had a habit of close contact with direct rewards for his followers, which is not to say that he didn't have a considerable intellectual capacity. He was well read but understated his ability for political advantage.
The book also interestingly covers the cult status of Lenin developed by Stalin with himself as the high priest.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Was there ever such a trio of hell-hounds as Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky who crawled from their slime to wreak havoc on a continent? Read morePublished 7 months ago by Devil's Advocate
Pretty good, it's big and managed to keep me engaged all the way through even though I am not a historian. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Detailed but Service's writing style can grate. He also cruises over significant events such as Barbarossa 1941 and Beria's ousting with no critical engagement whatsoever.Published 12 months ago by sol
An excellent book to understand Stalin and how could he impose his cruel and ruthless will over the Russian peoplePublished 16 months ago by Oscar Mota
Good but too detailed and too long. Could have been slightly abridged.Published 20 months ago by Bernard Vassallo Bernard Vassallo (MAlta)
Service is a paid liar, his books on Lenin and Trotsky are so far from history they are almost novels. Read morePublished 20 months ago by D. H. Dickinson
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